Election 2008 Giuliani Politics

“September 12 happened one day after September 11…”

From the Huffington Post, describing an Iowa meeting at which Giuliani was asked by a participant:

“Can you name one thing that happened on September 12?”

Mr. Giuliani seemed taken aback by the question, clearing his throat and drinking from a glass of water as if to buy time before responding.

“That’s a good question,” Mr. Giuliani said. “September 12 happened one day after September 11 — and we must never forget the lessons of September 11.”

Priceless. And shameless.

Election 2008 Politics

“Hillary can handle the men just fine. What’s giving her problems is Hillary.”

From Kathleen Parker in the San Francisco Chronicle:

When you’re leading the Democratic presidential race, as Sen. Hillary Clinton is, you might expect other candidates to focus their sharpest criticism your way.

Yet the spin coming out of the Clinton campaign is that the men were ganging up on Hillary. Sorry, but when girls insist on playing hardball with the boys, they don’t get to cry foul – or change the game to dodge ball – when they get bruised…

Hillary can handle the men just fine. What’s giving her problems is Hillary.


Domestic issues Foreign Policy Morality Politics The War on Terrorism

What Rights Should We Give Terrorists?

[digg-reddit-me]Behind the debates, votes, and bureaucratic battles of the past few years over civil liberties, torture, Guantanamo, terrorist tribunals, the Patriot Act, and domestic wiretapping, are two different views of how to respond to the threat of terrorism. Republicans and liberals each frame the question differently, asking two basic questions that lead them to diverging answers about the same issues.

A. Republicans

  • Question: What rights should we give to terrorists?
  • Answer: It doesn’t really matter. We need to do what is necessary to keep people safe. You shouldn’t care what we do unless you are a terrorist. (See footnote.)

B. Liberals

  • Question: How can we best reduce the risk of terrorism while preserving a free society?
  • Answer: There is no simple answer. It’s a complicated process necessitating many trade-offs and compromises and the process needs to be as transparent as possible.

While Republicans have often deflected Question B by answering Question A, their response to Question A indicates that they do not believe the two questions are related. I don’t know how many times I have been told in debates on the issues that I shouldn’t worry about them unless I am a terrorist. To consider the effect of our government’s actions gets you called a “fellow traveler” with the jihadists or more charitably is labeled “pre-9/11 thinking”. This is the essential idea of the books published by Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, of countless columns in the National Review and Wall Street Journal, and of a large part of the Republican’s electoral success in the 2002 and 2004 elections.

Politically, Question A confers great advantages. It offers easy answers. It comforts us – “If I’m not a terrorist, what do I care?” It seems a tougher approach. Most important though, it emotionally charges the issue. “Why should we confer the rights our society guarantees on those who have no respect for these rights and who will exploit them?” It separates them from us. Question B leads to a rational, reflective discussion and no easy answers. It’s a much harder sell and has been portrayed as a sign of weakness.

Despite the political rhetoric, both questions are merely different ways of phrasing the same problem. In fact, the disagreement between Republicans and liberals centers around a single point of controversy:

Do terrorists have rights?

  • Republicans have resoundingly answered “NO!” They have even gone so far as to indicate that even if you are only suspected of being a terrorist, you have lost many if not all rights.
  • Liberals believe terrorists do have rights, although many liberals do acknowledge that terrorism presents such a challenge to our way of life that we must make some changes to our system to deal with the issue effectively.

Within the Republican framing of the issue is a single, absolutely frightening idea that undermines the very basis of our nation and freedoms: that the government confers rights upon people rather than that rights being inherent in each individual. This is a profoundly unconservative idea – a radical one more generally associated with Communism than with any American ideology. You can see this idea at work listening to the chief prosecutor for Guantanamo defend his treatment of prisoners there, in Cheney’s defense of the terrorist tribunals, in Rudy’s defense of “enhanced interrogation”, in Bush’s defense of domestic wiretapping.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”

The problem with the Republican position is that it denies the very basis for American government, one of the cornerstones of our Constitution. If you believe in the ideals encapsulated in the first collective document produced by the American nation, in the reason for the revolution that created our country, in the ideals that animated the Founders in creating the Constitution, then terrorists have rights, inherent, inalienable, and God-given. If you reject this idea and believe instead that the government grants us rights which we can then exercise – to a fair and speedy trial, to a jury of peers, to not be tortured, to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, to free speech, to freedom of assembly, to an expectation of privacy – then you have negated the very basis of our founding. This is self-evident.

What then is the rationale for the Republican position?

Simply, the Republican position is this: the terrorists have won. The terrorists’ ideas and actions make America’s liberal democracy irrelevant. We must take what steps are necessary to protect the public safety; civil liberties are only for those who deserve them. Although the President took an oath to defend the Constitution, he now must defend American lives at the expense of this old document.

Clearly all Republicans do not believe this; and many who have mouthed these lines are merely reacting emotionally and have not thought through the clear consequences of their rhetoric. This is why I believe there is still hope for this country. There are many details liberals and conservatives can work out about the balance between protecting the public and protecting each individual, between liberty and safety. But to frame the issue as the Republicans have is truly radical, and it should be recognized as such. And to act as the Bush administration has done, based on the assumption that rights are granted rather than inherent, has clearly undermined everything America stands for.

Election 2008 Foreign Policy Iraq Obama Politics The War on Terrorism

Obama on Iran

In this piece in the New York Times tomorrow, Obama discusses what his approach to Iran would be. Not much news made in the interview in my opinion. Along with some criticisms of Iran’s actions of late, Obama stated that he would:

“engage in aggressive personal diplomacy”…and would offer economic inducements and a possible promise not to seek “regime change” if Iran stopped meddling in Iraq and cooperated on terrorism and nuclear issues.

His conciliatory approach to Iran seems like part of a smart strategy at this point given the Iranian people’s overall anger towards their own governement and affinity for American culture, as well as general demographic trends and tactical considerations in the region. I think his approach would be similar to Hillary’s – with the Senator from New York moving more slowly and putting in less effort, and probably posturing to try to ward off attacks from her right – but I truly appreciate the fact that he is telling the country now what he plans to do instead of running a campaign based on fear of Republican demonization.

Election 2008 Obama Politics

Barack Obama Reflecting on the Desire to Be President

[digg-reddit-me]On ABC World News Tonight with Charles Gibson, Senator Obama discusses the hubris a person needs to believe that he or she can be president:

I think if you don’t have enough self-awareness to see the element of megalomania involved in thinking you can be president then you probably shouldn’t be president. . .There’s a slight madness to thinking you should be the leader of the free world.

Watching this reminds me of half of the reason I support Barack Obama: the less important half which involves his personal appeal and charisma. I can’t imagine another candidate in the present or past speaking like this, providing a genuine insight into the campaign process and himself on purpose. Most of the time when the “real” candidates are revealed, it involves them making mistakes – either in front of a camera, or mistakes so serious the matter ends up in court. The definition of a gaffe in Washington is when a politician is accidentally honest.

Obama talks in a way no other politician does. Not because he is an inherently better person but because he is of a different generation. The lessons of the past 20 years of cultural warfare don’t seem to apply to Obama; he transcends them because he lived through them. Somewhere in this is the core of Obama’s appeal.

The video is after the jump.

Domestic issues Politics

Yet Another Reason Agricultural Subsidies Hurt Us

Link here. A perfect illustration of the unintended consequences of our actions.

History The War on Terrorism

Quote of the Day

Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued, or concluded. They are barred from the latter functions by a great principle in free government, analogous to that which separates the sword from the purse, or the power of executing from the power of enacting laws.

James Madison, “Helvidius No. 1,” Philadelphia Gazette, August 31, 1793.

Humor The War on Terrorism

Who knew the Iraqi insurgency was so status-conscious?

“How come he doesn’t need subtitles?!”